A Mac app that raised Apple’s ire with its drug-referencing name won’t be pulled from the Mac App Store, its developer says.
Apple reportedly threatened to remove utility app Amphetamine, which stops your Mac from going to sleep. The reason? Violating rule 1.4.3 of the App Store guidelines, which prohibits apps relating to “consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol.”
In a message to developer William Gustafson, Apple said, “Your app appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically, your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills.”
Gustafson appealed the decision with Apple, leading to a call from a representative of the company. As Gustafson noted, the rep said Apple recognizes the term and pill icon are used “metaphorically.”
As a result, the app won’t be removed from the Mac App Store. So both users — and their Macs — will be able to sleep comfortably.
You can download Amphetamine from the App Store. The free-to-download app is described by its creator as follows:
“Welcome to Amphetamine, the most awesome keep-awake app ever created for macOS. Amphetamine can keep your Mac, and optionally its display(s), awake through a super simple on/off switch, or automatically through easy-to-configure Triggers.”
The appeals process worked
This is just the latest example of controversy when it comes to Apple’s control of the App Store. For years, Apple has faced criticism for its sometimes inconsistent approach to App Store moderation. On occasion, Apple can be heavy-handed regarding what is and isn’t allowed in its digital storefront.
In this case, it seems that all involved acted correctly. Whether by AI or the human tagging of someone who took guidelines a bit too literally, Apple flagged a possible violation of its drug policy. The developer then pushed back, which led to a personal call from Apple and the retraction of the potential ban.
The challenges of App Store moderation
Apple’s in a tough spot when it comes to certain edge cases with the App Store. It’s faced these numerous times over the years since Steve Jobs made clear that Apple would exercise control over the App Store to make it family friendly.
This has led to some complex situations such as when, years ago, Apple censored an illustrated copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses because it contained an image of bare breasts. (Apple’s decision here was particularly ironic because Joyce battled censorship demands with Ulysses. This led to a landmark 1933 ruling in favor of free speech.)
The main issue for Apple is the consistency with which it applies its own rules. Threatening to pull Amphetamine, while other apps feature far more in the way of obvious drug paraphernalia, seems a bit baffling. But hopefully Apple will work to increase its transparency in this area in the years to come.
With the current antitrust scrutiny of Apple’s control of the App Store, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen.